Land of the Long White Cloud – South Island Sightseeing

A very windy inter-islander boat trip brought us to the South Island to continue our quest for the supreme travel experience or just a good glass of wine with a kumara dish.

First Stop – Picton
We were recommended a wine tour in the Marlborough area and it was a brilliant suggestion. The tour company is called Highlight Wine Tours and the fact that it is family run and their ability to pick the wineries we were interested in made it for a great way to spend the day. I will include more details on the specific wineries in the next post.

Wine Tour.

Next Stop – Punakaiki
We stayed at a hostel by the beach, Punakaiki Beach Hostel, close to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. The weather was terrible from the time we arrived. The relentless rain and the sound of the crashing waves created a dramatic soundtrack when falling asleep. It felt like in one second, if nature so desired it could swallow me whole. It didn’t and the next day we drove up and down the coast so we could take some photos. While the main tourist attraction of the area, the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, was fun to see, I enjoyed the stops we did on small beaches more. I was mesmerized by this bearded shell. Do you think this is a wiser shell than any others? Or maybe it is the Santa shell.

Around Punakaiki.

Around Punakaiki.

Next Stop – The Glaciers
The two Glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox, made for enjoyable walks. There are plenty of helicopter options but they are expensive and we enjoyed just walking without a guide.

Glaciers.

Glaciers.

Next Stop – Queenstown
This was the most we spent in a place with a total of three days. The first one we did a big spectacular nothing. After two weeks of ongoing excitement, we both felt we needed a break. The more I travel the more I develop angst for express sightseeing. I quite like to leave space in between memories so I can savour them better later on. The second day we did a hike up Queenstown Hill. We had really gorgeous weather, which supported the spectacular unveiling of the scenery: the blue of the water, the mountains slightly dipped in snow and everything else in between. For the last day we kept pondering if we should make the 300 km drive to Milford Sound. We decided to leave it for next time and instead we took a nice drive to Te Anau and stopped along the way to scare the local sheep population with my camera. In terms of Queenstown as a town, it is a tourist heaven with shops, places to eat and drink and all tucked away in a stunning location.

Around Queenstown.

Around Queenstown.

Next Stop – Mount Cook
I feel I am repeating myself by saying incredible and spectacular scenery too many times. But that is what they were. Another example was the drive to Mount Cook. The beautiful scene of the Lake Pukaiki with the mountains in the background is fairy tale material. We spend two nights at the Aoraki/Mount Cook Alpine Lodge waking up to a view of Mount Cook. As our major hike, we went up the smallest mountain in the area, Mount Sebastopol. The starting walk is called Red Tarns and after a series of steps that made me wish I went to the gym more often, we got to the lookout point; from here we ventured closer to the summit of Mount Sebastopol and we took advantage of the splendid weather. The other walks around the area were: one to Tasman Glacier and one to Hooker Valley. We pushed ourselves a bit physically during these two days and we ended up leaving with a bruised ankle, knee, elbow and most importantly ego. The irony was that I tripped on a normal path, and not in the more dangerous areas. I also discovered that my default emergency response mechanism is a combination of laughter and cry, but mostly laughter.

Mount Cook.

Mount Cook.

Next Stop – Christchurch
We ended our trip in Christchurch. All through this trip we were in awe of the beauty of nature and in Christchurch we were humbled by its force. The vibe of the city is not depressing but one of intensity in light of all of the construction and focus to build a new future. We went to the Botanical Gardens and to the Canterbury Museum. They offer free one hour tours and again we were in luck because our guide Anthony was friendly and keen to answer questions. A memorable piece is a doll house with multiple floors and rooms; all the items in the house were maintained as they were “arranged” by the earthquake.

Christchurch.

These are the locations we visited and brought greater richness to my life. From the incredible natural beauty, the interaction of different cultures, environmental conservation, to natural disasters and the rebirth of a city, these make the Land of the Long White Cloud a happy place in my heart. Couple more posts to come with food, mementos and postcards.

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